Califonia Bountiful

Imagine this...

Sept./Oct. 2011 California Country magazine

California schoolchildren find inspiration in agriculture

"The exciting thing about the 'Imagine this...' story writing contest is seeing a child with a winning story become a published author," said Mary Landau, a regional coordinator for the contest in Southern California. "To have their story illustrated, to have their idea come to life, that makes the children feel so wonderful!"

Landau is the first to evaluate stories submitted by third- through eighth-grade students in her region to the annual statewide contest, which attracts more than 10,000 entries each year. Sponsored by the California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom, the contest includes awards for winning regional stories as well as for statewide winners.

The six winning statewide stories are illustrated through the artistic talents of graphic design, art and photography students in Sacramento-area high schools and then turned into a softcover book. (See Book Reviews.) The 2010 winning tales range from the story of how tomatoes are turned into ketchup to guacamole-loving coyotes to a day in the life of a raindrop.

"Beyond the benefits of engaging children in the practice of reading, writing and composition, students who participate in the contest also discover the wide-ranging role of agriculture in their daily lives," said Judy Culbertson, the foundation's executive director.

"With the help of their classroom teachers, children from communities throughout the state trace the source of the food and fiber we all depend on," she said. "It allows them to personally make the link to the people and the practices that supply so many of our daily needs."

For Landau, the biggest satisfaction of coordinating her region's "Imagine this..." entries is finding out what the children write about.

"The stories are always informative, but some of the things they come up with are hilarious," she said. "Other things are surprisingly clever. We love to see the creativity the children bring to this project."

Kate Campbell is a reporter for California Country. She can be reached at 800-698-FARM or

Why "Imagine this..." matters

More than 7 million California students are fed, clothed and housed with products grown on California farms and in its forests. California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom helps students and teachers gain an understanding of how agriculture helps provide for life's essentials. More information about the foundation and the "Imagine this..." contest is available online at

Winning stories

Here is a little more information about the 2010 "Imagine this..." winners, including a summary of each story. Click on the links for full text of the stories.

"Once Upon a Delicious Dream"

Guadalupe Landeros

Guadalupe Landeros
3rd grade, Williams Elementary School
Colusa County
Teacher: Sherrie Taylor Vann
Illustrated by Delta High School, Clarksburg

Follow field tomatoes along the winding path from the farm to America's dinner tables and restaurants, where they're devoured as ketchup, pizza sauce and other delights. It's the story of inspecting, cleaning, cooking and delivering a favorite family condiment as told through a child's daydream. Read Once Upon a Delicious Dream.

"It's important to learn about the things we eat and I was surprised that so many foods are made with tomatoes."

"The Journey of Robby the Raindrop"

Morgan Overholtzer

Morgan Overholtzer
4th grade, Gratton Elementary School
Stanislaus County
Teacher: Pennie Segna
Illustrated by Sheldon High School, Elk Grove

Robby the raindrop is a water molecule on a mission, scouting California's farm fields from the clouds. When he drops down from the sky, he realizes just how much work must be done to bring moisture to the soil. His journey offers many lessons on the role of water in daily life. Read The Journey of Robby the Raindrop.

"Writing about water turned out to be more fun than I thought. I learned our bodies are 60 percent water."

"The Coyote, the Avocado & Sam"

Zeb Soyffer

Zeb Soyffer
5th grade, Ekstrand Elementary School
Los Angeles County
Teacher: Catherine Rojas
Illustrated by Woodland High School, Woodland

From a safe perch in an avocado tree, Sam tames a hungry coyote with guacamole before it heads back to its den. One taste and the coyote pack dances with joy. Later, the coyotes learn to plant the avocado seeds and before too long, Sam and the coyotes are the most famous avocado growers in California. Read The Coyote, the Avocado & Sam.

"My family has sprouted avocado seeds, so I decided to use that experience for a story. During my research, I learned that eight varieties of avocados are grown in California."

"Just Peachy"

Nick O'Brien

Nick O'Brien
6th grade, St. Stanislaus Elementary School
Stanislaus County
Teacher: Judee Sani
Illustrated by Inderkum High School, Sacramento

Here's the tale of a plucky peach growing up in Modesto in one of the nation's best fruit orchards. In this perfect, peachy world, Sims, a clingstone, learns some important life lessons, including that not all peaches go to the farmers market; some end up in fruit cocktail. Read Just Peachy.

"I live outside Modesto, surrounded by orchards, but I didn't realize how many varieties of peaches there are until I went to the farmers market."

"From Dirt to Pie Crust"

Delaney Black

Delaney Black
7th grade, Scott Valley Junior High School
Siskiyou County
Teacher: Tracy Dickinson
Illustrated by Woodland High School, Woodland

Pies, sweet rolls and cinnamon bread may tickle the tongue, but the process of growing wheat and turning it into flour takes lots of hard work. This first-person story follows the author from planting to irrigation to harvest to finished pastry that melts in the mouth. Read From Dirt to Pie Crust.

"I was excited to write about what we do on our family's farm, but didn't realize how important agriculture is to California until I did my research."

"The Guard Llama: To Protect and Serve"

Matt Wright

Matt Wright
8th grade, Sacred Heart Catholic School
Stanislaus County
Teacher: Cathy Shive
Illustrated by Inderkum High School, Sacramento

Sporting shades and a bad-boy haircut, Guard Llama defends the inhabitants of Double H Ranch against predators. His weapons? Screeching, spitting and kicking. His arch rival? Ace Bandit. His triumph? A safe sheep flock after a big fight and one bandit coyote gets trucked to Nevada. Read The Guard Llama: To Protect and Serve.

"I noticed a lot of llamas on ranches in our county. I did some research and learned that llamas are a good way to keep predators away."

Follow us on: Facebook Twitter YouTube Pinterest Pinterest